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Graduates help teach for summer

Joni Becker, left, Mackenzie Householder and Katiana Fischer are Fairmont High School graduates who are helping with summer school at Fairmont Elementary School.

FAIRMONT — Several Fairmont High School graduates have returned home to help out with summer school as aides at the elementary school. The opportunity provides help for the district and hands-on experience for the aides.

Those helping include Joni Becker, Katiana Fischer, Mackenzie Householder, Abby Tonder and Alli Lardy.

This year, three different summer school sessions are being offered. Each session has between 80 and 100 students entering grades K-7. Right now the second session is happening four days a week from 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Becker is a 2020 graduate of Fairmont High School. She’s currently studying psychology and special education at the University of North Dakota. Becker said she was interested in finding a job during her second semester of college and started working as a para for Grand Forks public schools.

Her mom, Julie, works in the business office for the Fairmont School District and told Becker that she could work as a para this summer in Fairmont as well.

Katiana Fischer graduated from Fairmont in 2015. She’s currently working toward obtaining her Masters in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Like Becker, Fischer heard about the opportunity from her mother, Kellie, who works for Southern Plains Education Cooperative.

Mackenzie Householder will be a senior at Fairmont High School this school year. She has an interest in elementary education.

“I heard about this from Mr. (Scott) Geerdes. He suggested I should help tutor grades 7-12 but I told him I was more interested in elementary so told me about this opportunity and I talked to Michelle Rosen,” Householder explained.

Becker stressed that while most of the students helping heard about the opportunities from their parents, they’re involved because they’re interested in it and because there’s a need for it.

Householder said it’s a good opportunity for her to figure out what area of teaching and what grade level she likes best.

“Summer school also shows how much patience you have because these are the kids who need a little extra help, so we’re slowing it down and it shows if you can have patience in the classroom,” Householder said.

“We’re basically student teaching, but getting the experience before we actually student teach,” Becker said.

Fischer said that while she’s in her Master’s program, she’s still trying to figure out if she wants to be in a school or medical setting.

“Joni is school psychology and I’m speech-language pathology, neither of us is planning on being a teacher, but it’s still a way to get experience and perspective from the classroom. It will help us be prepared to go into those professions with more understanding of the school system as a whole,” Fischer said.

When Becker first started college, she said she wanted to be a high school guidance counselor.

“Once I started working in the elementary school, I was witnessing kids who needed to be on an individualized education plan but didn’t meet the qualifications. I feel like there needs to be more advocates and people in that area who understand,” Becker said.

Becker said she also didn’t realize that there were so many jobs in the school system.

“Everyone always thinks of teaching but there’s so much more,” Becker said.

The students helping also reflected on what it’s like to come back to the district they once attended.

“It’s fun to see how things have changed. It’s also fun because Michelle Rosen was my kindergarten teacher, and now I get to see her as a principal,” Fischer said.

Rosen, who is co-principal at the elementary school, said, “A lot of students come home for the summer and it’s for a short amount of time. There are a lot of openings for other jobs, but hopefully local people are picking up on those. This is truly a summer-only position so it’s great for college kids who come home for the summer,” Rosen said.

Rosen said it’s also a good way for former Fairmont students to reconnect with their hometown and school.

“The staff has liked having them here. They’ve enjoyed reconnecting with former students,” Rosen said.

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